MIAMI (AP) -Leaning on a long red crutch as he spoke outside the Miami Heat locker room Monday night, Alonzo Mourning made two things very clear.
One, he has not retired.
Two, any path to another comeback will be an extremely long one.
Speaking in specifics about the season-ending injuries to his right knee and right leg suffered last month in Atlanta, Mourning revealed Monday that Heat team physician Dr. Harlan Selesnick was originally concerned simply about his prospects of walking again. Mourning tore the patella tendon and quadriceps muscle in his right leg on Dec. 19 - ironically, the fourth anniversary of his life-saving kidney transplant.
But his recovery is going well, even though Mourning still cannot drive or work out the way he used to.
``Sounds like somebody is communicating to me,'' Mourning said. ``It really does. I hope I read the sign right and make the right decision. But right now, I feel a little helpless sitting on the sideline, because I see so much I can do to help. That's what hurts more than anything.''
The Heat entered Monday night's game against Cleveland with an 8-31 record, worst in the Eastern Conference.
Mourning - who turns 38 on Feb. 8 - entered this season saying that this would be his farewell campaign, insisting repeatedly that nothing would change his mind.
Now, he's not exactly talking in absolute terms when the notion of retiring comes up.
``Right now, my focus is just to get healthy,'' Mourning said. ``I haven't really thought about if I'm going to retire or not. But my focus is getting healthy, being able to run and walk, and once I overcome that hurdle I'll be prepared to let you know if I'm going to play again.''
Heat coach Pat Riley said he hasn't talked with Mourning about the prospects of the 2008-09 season.
``He's coming to games so we're chatting a little bit, but there's no discussion about that,'' Riley said. ``I think you've got to leave that with him. ... But actually, his scars look pretty good. I can't believe how good his knee looks.''
Mourning's kneecap was completely displaced when he tumbled awkwardly to the court in Atlanta, and he also tore the top and bottom of the quadriceps muscle, plus sustained some other injuries.
Mourning, who because of the kidney transplant cannot take anti-inflammatory medication or painkillers other than aspirin - and suffered for two weeks after this surgery because of that - said Selesnick told him he'd never seen an injury like it before.
But things are slowly beginning to heal, and Mourning's spirits are high.
``I'm happy and I'm focused right now on my recovery,'' Mourning said. ``I really haven't thought too much about basketball.''
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